Fierce, yet small and elegant. The smallest bird of prey in the order of falcons is called the Musvalk, in my native Dutch language. This creature perfectly embodies the knife I just created, which is why I chose its name to represent this knife and hopefully more knife designs in the future.
As a designer I am always curious about exotic materials and how to use them effectively in my work. I happen to live in a very unusual neck of the woods where this fascination is nothing odd. Tucked away in a corner of the Mojave desert in California lies a little village where space travel is the talk of the town...every day of the week. It is where Richard Branson is developing his space program today.
It is where you can see test pilots and engineers have lunch at the local cafe, and it has a rich history of being at the cutting edge of space- and aircraft development.
It is here where I started to explore the possibility of creating a small knife, applying the very materials used in spacecrafts. I know, it sounds like a little boy's fantasy, but why not. By talking to whomever was not bound by confidentiality in this town, I got to see and feel these materials in person. From two engineers that worked on the space shuttle program, I learned about the amazing engineering and fatal mistakes which are an inevitable consequence of being at the cutting edge.
To make the translation from spacecraft to knife, I had to select materials that would have a place in my work. The properties that I was looking for were: light weight, hard edge and pleasing to the eye. Sometimes I had to chose a derivative material, to better suit my purpose.
Initial inspiration of the angular shape of the knife was the geometry of the Lockheed F117 Nighthawk stealth fighter jet, which was tested in this region too. Although its iconic design is purely functional, it is also a visual representation of stealth.
Once I settled on the materials I wanted to use, I had to educate myself on the limitations of the different manufacturing processes. What types of shapes can be made and which should be avoided. But I never lost sight of the ergonomics of the knife. Clay models and 3d printed prototypes helped me determine which shape allowed for an excellent grip and perfect position when pulled from the sheath when worn around the neck.
By selecting zirconium dioxide ceramic (Zirconia) as the blade material, this knife has an edge hardness approaching that of diamond. You will never have to sharpen this knife. In addition, a 25% weight reduction was achieved, over using a traditional steel.
At the same time the Musvalk blade is thicker than any ceramic blade that I have come across. This extra girth is to negate the reduced impact resistance associated with this blade material. Please be assured that with normal use and handling, you should have a lifetime of cutting use from the knife.
As you can see, the blade comes in a few different colors. The blades are made by compressing the white Zirconia powder into a mold, applying enormous force, which consolidates the particles into the blade shape. It is then fired in a special kiln for days. When a blade is fired longer and under higher pressure, it turns from white to black and becomes slightly denser. However, I have been told that the difference in properties is negligible in the application as a knife.
The "golden" blade gets its color from an applied titanium nitride coating. This film is deposited as a vapor and is extremely wear resistant. It is often found on machine tools. Since the ceramic of the blade itself is already very wear resistant, the non coated blades are as sharp and wear resistant.
Sheath and Scales
Carbon fiber is the material of choice for the hulls of spacecrafts of the past and present. The laminated fibers provide a superior stiffness and result in unbelievably light structures. I have applied a 2 mm twill weave carbon fiber to provide essential grip without adding unnecessary weight. As an additional option I am also considering a metal and fiberglass laminate, sometimes referred to as barracuda glass.
Even the sheath is largely made of carbon fiber, complimented with a material called Zytel. This glass reinforced nylon provides the spring power to hold the knife in place, and is very wear resistant. Custom made Torx head titanium bolts are used to securely fasten the separate parts of the design together.
Cost was the biggest challenge here as I learned that these tiny bolts can cost up to a dollar a piece! I electro-anodize the bolts to compliment the color of the blade. A deep blue for the black blade, and a gold color to match the color of the titanium nitride coated blade.
The knife comes with a Paracord neckless which has a tensile strength of 425 lbs, and is supplemented with a safety break away.
After many prototypes (as can be seen in the video), I am glad to say that all the knives that you see in the pictures here are pre-production models, meaning that they are as good as ready for production. I will be assembling the knifes with my own hands, but since the separate parts of this knife each require a highly specialized production process, they will be made elsewhere under my supervision. During the prototyping stage, I have developed a good working relationship with local and international manufacturers, who are excited to work with me (and all of you) to make this project happen.
Due to all the special molds and tooling that are required to produce this knife, the start-up costs of this project are higher than previous projects I have done. The height of the funding goal reflects this. (I haven't gotten greedy, if you were wondering) Each variation of the knife will also require an extra investment, which is why there are stretch goals. I laid it out below.
Those of you that have backed my projects in the past know that I very much consider the end result as a collective effort. I take any suggestions from you seriously and try to implement improvements right away, to include them in the final product. Underneath are a few quotes form backers of my previous campaigns. Let's make this happen...again.